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Hefferman v. Board of Trustees of Illinois Community College District 508

November 08, 2002


Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 00 C 794--Harry D. Leinenweber, Judge.

Before Posner, Manion, and Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Diane P. Wood, Circuit Judge.

ARGUED MAY 24, 2002

Glen Hefferman was the first white basketball coach in approximately 30 years at the majority African-American Malcolm X Community College (Malcolm X). After working for almost seven months without receiving any pay, Hefferman brought this action. He sued both Dan Davis, the Malcolm X athletic director, claiming that Davis had defrauded him, and the Board of Trustees of Illinois Community College District 508 (City Colleges), alleging that the City Colleges had violated both the substantive and the anti-retaliation provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), 29 U.S.C. §201 et seq., and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. After a four-day trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hefferman on his substantive FLSA claim against the City Colleges and his fraud claim against Davis. It found in favor of the City Colleges on Hefferman's Title VII race discrimination claim and his FLSA retaliation claim. Both defendants filed post-verdict motions. The district court rejected the City Colleges' motion, but it granted Davis's motion for judgment as a matter of law on Hefferman's fraud claim. On appeal, Hefferman challenges the judgments against him on both the fraud and Title VII counts. We affirm in part and reverse in part.


Hefferman first applied for a coaching position at Malcolm X in 1997. He did not get the job that time, but in March 1999, Davis contacted Hefferman to offer him another opportunity for employment with Malcolm X--this time as the head basketball coach. Davis also told Hefferman that beginning in the fall he could teach physical education as part of the Malcolm X faculty. The news of Hefferman's hiring was big enough to make the April 4, 1999, issue of the Chicago Tribune, which specifically stated that Davis had invited Hefferman to apply for the head coach position and that Hefferman had "accepted a job at Malcolm X College, where he will be merely the school's fourth head coach in four years."

Hefferman filled out the paperwork for the coaching position, including a tax form and a job application, and Davis instructed him on how to submit similar paperwork for the teaching job. At Davis's request, Hefferman began his coaching duties immediately. He remembers Davis saying, "Go get 'em. Let's get started." Hefferman understood that he would be paid for the coaching work he would be doing.

At trial, Davis testified that he could not have hired Hefferman because as athletic director he did not have that authority. He maintained that he said only that he would recommend Hefferman for the position. He also testified that there was no head coach position available, only a position as part-time bench coach, and that he did not promise Hefferman a teaching position in the physical education department. Nevertheless, in evaluating a ruling on a motion under FED. R. CIV. P. 50, we must view the facts in the light most favorable to Hefferman, as the non-moving party. Hefferman testified that Davis personally assured him that as athletic director, Davis had the authority to hire him.

It is unclear whether Hefferman filled out an employment application in March. The application in the record for the basketball position is dated August 27, 1999. The only evidence in the record of an earlier application comes from Hefferman's testimony, in which he said that he filled out two applications in the spring: one in March for the head basketball coach position, and another in April for a teaching position.

Regardless of whether Hefferman was formally hired by Davis, the parties do not dispute that Hefferman began work at Malcolm X in March 1999 and fulfilled the duties of the head coach. Between late March and early October, Hefferman recruited players, supervised summer workouts and formal practices, and coached players in leagues and tournaments. Although at trial Davis emphasized that Hefferman was volunteering to ensure his future success as a Malcolm X coach, counsel for Davis conceded at oral argument in this court that Hefferman should have been paid for his work during that period and emphasized that, in his view, only bureaucratic delays prevented Hefferman from receiving timely pay.

Hefferman also testified before the jury that Davis knew that there were no funds available for the 1999-2000 season to pay a bench coach's salary. Despite the fact that he was not receiving any money, Hefferman continued to coach during the spring and summer because he wanted the promised fall term physical education teaching position. He did not do so, however, without complaint. To the contrary, Hefferman frequently protested to Davis about his lack of pay. Davis initially responded by citing payroll paperwork problems and later evaded all of Hefferman's questions. Finally, Davis responded to Hefferman's complaints with racial slurs. Hefferman testified that Davis (who is African-American) stated, "I've never had these problems from a black coach," and then later said, "I knew I shouldn't have hired a white guy."

On October 19, 1999, Hefferman complained to Davis for the last time. He told Davis that he would not continue to coach unless he was paid. Davis responded that Hefferman was owed no money for his preseason work. Hefferman left for the day and never returned. Davis then installed Dan Crosby, who had been working as Hefferman's unpaid assistant, as the new coach at Malcolm X. Crosby is African-American.

After Hefferman filed a discrimination complaint, City Colleges forwarded him two checks that had been cut prior to his lawsuit, totaling approximately $3,600. But Davis and Hefferman could not agree on the amount Hefferman was owed. When Hefferman told Davis that he had worked far more time than the document described and was owed more, Davis responded, "You either take this or you get nothing at all." Hefferman chose nothing, and the case proceeded.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of City Colleges on Hefferman's claims of race discrimination and FLSA retaliation. It found in Hefferman's favor on his FLSA claim for unpaid minimum and overtime wages and on his fraud claim, awarding Hefferman $10,562 on the FLSA claim and $52,526 ...

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